Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The Monarchs of Winghaven

Moreira, Naila. The Monarchs of Winghaven
May 14, 2024 by Walker Books US
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Fifth grader Sammie's family has moved to a new town in New England for her father's job, and she is sad that she is no longer near a nature center, and also that her mother is now working all the time. For solace, she spends a lot of time in The Field, the property attached to an abandoned house. She wants to be a biologist when she grows up, so keeps detailed notes and drawings about the natural phenomenon she observes. When her mother tells her that she will be spending the summer at a camp with her schoolmates, Sammie is devastated. She would rather be alone, and even brushed off an attempt by a girl in her class to hang out with them. She especially dislikes Robert, who is a bit of a bully but also has a troubled homelife. When she meets a boy, Bram, in The Field, she is NOT happy, especially when he wants to see her notebook. He is a bird watcher, and takes photos of things, and has just moved to town because of his father's job. Sammie eventually warms to him after she falls into the creek, and his mother is kind enough to help her out. Bram is even allowed to have cookies without asking, which is the basis for many a tween friendship. The two have a small falling out when Sammie talks to Pete, a graduate student who is researching the birds in the area, but when the two are asked to help with a Christmas bird count, Bram decides that Pete isn't all bad. As the year progresses, there are some changes to the field, which they name Winghaven. The local Audubon society is interested in the area as well, and there is a lot of milkweed that has attracted those interested in Monarch butterflies, so when the property is covertly sold to a housing developer, Sammie is able to get the newspaper interested in the story. It doesn't look like Sammie and Bram, with Robert's help, will be able to prevail, but when Pete attends the meeting, and is now working for the Nature Conservancy, a satisfactory ending is possible. Winghaven is saved, and becomes a wildlife sanctuary so that the town can continue to enjoy the wildlife. 

Elementary students who are very interested in biology and outdoor pursuits will be sympathetic to Sammie's love of nature, her sensitivity to saving as many creatures as she can (even hydras in pond water!), and her desire to see a beloved natural area saved. Her friendship with Bram is good to see, although it is not surprising that she has trouble making friends at school if she tells well meaning classmates that she would rather be alone. 

The parents are involved in realistic ways, and Sammie even gets permission to stay with Bram and his mom Vicky, who is an artist who works from home, instead of going to the summer camp. The brief look into graduate work, the Audubon society, and town politics also gives young readers a taste of the larger world. 
This is a good choice for readers who like a good science based story like McDunn's When Sea Becomes Sky, Johnson's Rescue at Wild Lakeor Hurwitz's Hello From Renn Lake

I will probably pass on purchase, since I have trouble getting my readers to pick up the birding titles that I already have, but I would definitely purchase this for an elementary school library. 

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